CBS Evening News' February 17 "Eye on America" segment presented what Dan Rather called "an in-depth report from the front lines of this country's losing battle against unlawful immigration." That military metaphor continued throughout the segment, with Rather and CBS correspondent Bob McNamara referring to "an army of invaders," a "border battleground" and "the daily invasion of illegal aliens." At one point, McNamara reported that "Border Patrol agents have seen the illegal invasion here take on the tactics and size of an advancing army."
The subject of the report was a resident of Texas who is under investigation for allegedly shooting two Mexican immigrants in separate incidents. For a supposedly "in-depth report," you don't learn much about either incident: One of the victims, viewers were told, was killed while crossing back across the Rio Grande after reportedly attempting to break in to the suspect's house; the other, who survived, was apparently shot in the back while simply standing in the river. Instead of providing information about these cases or other evidence of immigration problems in Texas, the report relies on vague references to people defending the border and defending their property, concepts that seem to be used interchangeably.
No Mexican immigrants or advocates for immigrants are allowed to directly present their viewpoints; instead, McNamara refers briefly to statements made by two relatives of the victims. (In one of these, a brother merely acknowledges participation in a burglary attempt.) There are a few comments from a Border Patrol agent, and all other quotes in the segment are either from the suspect in the shootings or from his neighbors who support him, saying things like, "If my family or my property is threatened, I wouldn't hesitate one bit."
Given the extended use of military language to describe immigration in the piece, the segment leaves the impression that it might, in fact, be justifiable to use violence against people trying to cross the border illegally. McNamara concludes that "solutions are not simple at all here, a land where the line between right and wrong can often be as murky as the Rio Grande River." One-sided, sensationalistic reports like this one from CBS certainly do their part to muddy the water.
ACTION: Write to Dan Rather and ask him whether he thought that this was a fair and balanced presentation of an incendiary subject. Point out that references to an "army of invaders," and the "murky" line between right and wrong, seem to justify the use of vigilante violence.
CBS Evening News
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